mad in pursuit: greed & arrogance

2004 political season

mad in pursuit home

greed & arrogance index


8.2.04 The Fog of War

I scarcely remember Robert McNamara -- a name I had to memorize in 7th grade and, later, a name associated with Vietnam. But last night we watched "The Fog of War."

"The Fog of War" is a documentary, in which the 83-year-old McNamara sits in a chair and reflects on his life. It's intercut with archival footage and amazing taped conversations between him and Kennedy, then him and Johnson.

McNamara is a seriously smart guy -- a whiz kid, a statistical quality control geek with a passion for facts, and here he sits -- an old man -- talking about the error and misjudgments he made. Here is a man who wanted to make the world a better place but kept finding himself directing wars -- struggling to figure out how much evil one could deliver on your enemy in order to bring good to your own people.

He is brutally honest with himself. That's what makes it a stunning movie. Can I imagine Rumsfeld or Cheney sitting in the same chair-- even 40 years from now? Not in a million years. We live in a partisan and self-excusing age -- when things go wrong, there is always the other guy to blame.

Rent the movie. Its lessons are profound and timely. McNamara calculated how to firebomb Japanese cities with the most efficiency; he held back Curtis LeMay when he wanted to use missiles in Cuba as an excuse to invade Russia; and he remained loyal to Lyndon Johnson as Johnson mired us deeper into Vietnam despite McNamara's advice. This man knows war. And he knows war is not a game for zealots and make-believe cowboys. He knows war can get the best of you -- even if you're a smart guy.





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